[-empyre-] the ethics of the semi-living

Nell Tenhaaf tenhaaf at yorku.ca
Sat Sep 14 01:18:37 EST 2013


If I may weigh in with a comment/question related to Johannes', and hopefully not overwhelm Oron (although we've spoken about this already Oron, so at least not new): is there an aesthetic connection to be made with the more abject features of performance/body art, i.e. its eliciting and even embracing of bodily limits, breakdown, failure? What Johannes describes as "the cellular project may not be apparent" I've referred to as the muteness of the semi-living tissue, and for me that muteness elicits an affective zone of the abject. 
- Nell

On 2013-09-12, at 9:03 AM, Johannes Birringer wrote:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> 
> Oron, 
> could you please say a bit more about these years of testing the notion of 'semi-living',  and placing it (cultures, cells, that which you thought of as semi or between, needing a link to technological care) into art context/installation context and thus linking it to aesthetics? (also the discourse of so-called bio art which is an art discourse and not a scientific one, would you say?).
> 
> Perhaps this is also where the political and ethical question arise, or the question I tried to raise last time, about the banalization/trivialization of science - that was a question addressed to Adam Z and his comment on fascism, I find particularly interesting  your statement that the semi-living project requires a removal of it [what is the it?  the cell?] from a body or context, the latter now being assumed dead or excised, yes? 
> And the caring now is addressing a biotechnological system and an interface that needs nurture (in exhibition, it also needs explanation, justification, and new contextualization as the cellular project may not be apparent - as art, as object, as science, as process -- and visible and intuitable to an audience. It may not be apparent nor justifiable? 
> 
> The design, then, to follow my comment on the "fashion reference" in "Evolution Haute Couture", becomes the runway for the thing to live and display itself and justify itself.
> What are your thoughts on semi-living design, and the linkage you have made between lab and art gallery/museum, and between lab and the wider, philosophical or political thinking on systems/systems theory?
> Has the discourse, in your opinion, delved sufficiently into this important question of care, and what analogies to performance/body art, if you think of the work of Sarah Jane Pell, do you see?
> 
> regards
> Johannes Birringer
> 
> [Oron schreibt]
> So yes, if bioart would exist, as in if artists working with life and attempting to impose some kind of wants onto living systems - the ethics of care is undoubtedly, implicitly or explicitly embedded in the practice. At least temporarily until care is no longer needed - you can call it death...
> 
> [Oron schreibt]
> ... for all intents and purposes we started with something which was dead meat (the half rabbit's heads) but the cells were alive, growing, proliferating and doing what cells do (in culture- outside the context of the original body of the rabbit).  Are these cells living in the same way that the dead rabbit was 24 hours earlier? We realized the even though tissue culture was going on for more than a hundred years, we had no cultural language to deal with this experience. And if we do not have that, can we have any ethical reference point to deal with these fragments of life?  If we name them semi-living would that change anything?
> We spend the last seventeen years trying to figure that out.
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